Private Michael James Bailey was born at Southport, Queensland in 1891 to parents Mary and Joseph Bailey, who later moved to News South Wales.
Bailey joined the army within six weeks of the declaration of war, he was 23 years old. He was attached to the 15th battalion Australian Imperial Force, 4th brigade, which embarked from Port Melbourne on the HMAT Ceramic A40 on 22 December 1914.
Bailey was involved in the charge at Lone Pine, Gallipoli on 8 August 2015 and reported missing in action the same day. After months of court investigation and the gathering of eyewitness statements he was reported as killed in action on 1 May 1916.
Witness statements were collected from fellow soldiers in the forms of ‘slips’ which where included in correspondence to enquirers. With the body of deceased not recovered and the witness statements of fellow soldiers the court determined it was unlikely that Bailey had been taken prisoner.
Correspondence to enquirers often included an advisory note: ‘We would advise, however, in the light of past experience that too much importance should be attached to these statements, they being the statements of fellow-soldiers.’ In this particular case a witness said that he had buried Bailey’s body. However his body was never recovered.
One witness described Bailey as a good ‘cobber’ and told the Red Cross searcher that he had put a sign above his dugout, naming it the Barcoo Hotel. Reading these eyewitness statements it is easy to see that strong bonds were formed between soldiers at the frontline.
Another eyewitness account included a graphic statement which was omitted from the letter to the enquirer: ‘It was terrible; the men were falling like rabbits. Many were calling out for Mothers and Sisters’.
Bailey’s fiancée, who lived in South Australia, enquired about why it took nine months for him to be reported as killed in action. In her emotive letter to the Bureau she also asked after possessions which Bailey had of hers, including a gold ring. The reply stated that the ring was probably on the body of the deceased, which had not been recovered.